In most games there is no single weapon or class that will get a collective groan from your teammates faster than the sniper. Played well, a vital part of any team, but unfortunately not played well by most. However, it remains one of the most popular choices in games and any single player levels centered around it are often one of the favorites in the campaign.
So why aren’t there more games focused on the beloved sniper? Enter Sniper Elite V2, the followup/remake to the little known Sniper Elite from 2005, with both versions done by Rebellion Developments. The game received the obligatory graphical polish and engine tweaks you would expect from an Xbox to current-gen remake and introduced an X-Ray killcam — among other features — but what does it truly bring to the table?
The game opens with a brief voice-over introduction by protagonist Karl Fairburne laid over some historical footage, which serves to set the tone for the game. Karl will be your source of information in a voice-over throughout most of the game and serves as the primary plot device. The game takes place near the end of World War II, and you’re tasked with helping to recruit some Nazi scientists.
At least I think that’s what’s going on. Outside of the opening narration and a brief summary at the start of each mission, the game is somewhat vague about what’s going on and what you’re supposed to be doing. Each level in the single player campaign is connected by a loose thread and often takes place in different locales with no explanation to the time passed between them, giving the narrative a strange and disjointed feel.
But essentially each level boils down to the basics: you have an end-goal with a bunch of enemy troops in between you and said goal, with some other small objectives peppered in between that will help you in getting there.
As the title would imply, Karl is a sniper, and that will be how almost all of your killing is done in the game. Your engagements are varied with some instances involving taking out large enemy forces from a perched location, sneaking through various bases or towns and killing everything in sight without being noticed, among others.
Herein lies the biggest problem with the game. It doesn’t seem to be aware of if it wants to be a stealthy long-range sniping game or a fast paced shooter where you simply have a sniper rifle as your main weapon. The biggest fault with this comes with the enemy AI which is not the best, to put it kindly.
No matter how well you choose your spot or how concealed you are, the moment you fire that first shot every enemy in the immediate vicinity will be instantly aware of precisely where you’re firing from, almost without fail. As you sit there and pick them off, they’ll unload on you with the same sub-machine guns that, in your hands, shoot wild circles and have difficulty killing within punching range.
The levels that aren’t centered around stealth ultimately devolve into a shooting gallery as you try to pick off all the enemies around. Usually you’re set up in a blocked off position where the best they can do is get kind of close and shoot at you, which is their main strategy of attack even if there’s a route that leads behind you.
While this isn’t entirely terrible on its own, it becomes worse when you realize that, when the game wants you to be stealthy, it’s no longer a choice. Most levels and areas have a finite number of enemies that you must take out or get around, and, once the last one is dead, that’s it. However, some of the stealth levels are designed so that you can’t just kill everybody instead of sneaking behind patrol routes thanks to the miracle of respawning enemies.
One early level in particular had a horrible problem with this. After sneaking up behind enemies, taking them out and hiding the bodies, I started noticing my hidden pile of corpses was growing rather large but thought nothing of it. That is until I advanced on and, after killing another patrolling guard, saw another one pop into existence right behind him who then proceeded to spot me and call all his buddies.
Of course, these problems only really present themselves when looking at the game as it was trying to be, but when taken for what it is, Sniper Elite V2 turns out to be a genuinely fun, albeit flawed, experience. The game has adjustable levels of bullet physics and wind which can be modified in a number of ways, and the sniping itself is extremely satisfying and well done. The game features the standard “hold your breath” mechanic of other shooters, but this is combined with a meter that represents the air in your lungs.
Using this slows down time and pops a small red indicator on your crosshairs showing where the bullet is going to go, which is a great help if you have any of the bullet physic settings turned on, though it won’t take long for you to start learning to adjust for these changes yourself.
Then, of course, comes the main show-off mechanic of the game with the X-Ray killcam feature. Occasionally the game will enter slow-mo and follow the bullet as it leaves the barrel of your gun, showing a cross-section X-Ray of the target and detailing what was hit and what damage was done. Though this can get a little repetitive after a while, it never truly becomes a nuisance, and seeing a man’s testicles get shot off never gets old.
In addition to the single player campaign there are a few multiplayer modes — both co-operative and competitive — to give a little extra replay to the game, but, while they’re as competent as the main game, there’s nothing here that will keep players coming back after seeing everything there is to offer. The co-op modes play more or less similar to the single player campaign with the bonus of having a buddy along for the ride, while the competitive modes show some promise, but, as with the game as a whole, fall a little short of hitting their target.
Sniper Elite V2 isn’t the best game in the world, but it’s certainly a fun experience. While it doesn’t do everything it set out to do, the final game itself is fun and entertaining enough that the faults are forgivable to a certain degree. The game certainly deserves some praise for what it attempted to do differently in the genre, but trying to do something different isn’t the same as succeeding.
A solid game when taken at face value, Sniper Elite V2 is a fun though flawed game that is neither as bad or as good as it could have been.